Saturday, 24 December 2011

Poaching in Clipstone Park in 1279

The Sherwood Forest Eyre Court of 1287 tells of an offence committed in Sherwood Forest in 1279 'on the Friday next before Ascension Day in the seventh year of the reign of King Edward...'

'It is presented by Adam D'Everingham (hereditary keeper of Sherwood Forest) that Alan of Leverton, clericus foreste de Schirewod (the clerk of Sherwood Forest) with Robillard his page took a doe in the park of Clipston(e)... with a laparario ruffo (red greyhound)...'

The doe was eaten by the pigs in the park because it was taken so late at night it was too dark to find it!!! 

A common problem presumably for illicit poachers!

Following his crime which along with killing the king's deer, must have included failing to 'hamble' his hound (see Forest Law page) Alan was brought before the justices and sent to prison...

Maybe he spent time under the custody of 'William the Gaoler' who was one of the gaolers at Nottingham Castle around that time (see Rufford Charters entry)?

Maybe not though as he wasn't in gaol for too long receiving a ransom of half a mark sometime after...

His page Robillard did not show up and appears to have gone on the run

He was then exacted (his belongings seized- usually before outlawing)...

The interesting fact here is that these men were not peasants struggling for food in the forest to avoid starvation. Many of the people caught poaching (see Forest Law outlaws entry) or caught chopping down trees (see 1334 Sherwood Forest Eyre Court entry) were ordinary folk.

In this instance they were members of the Forest Administration itself! They were in the employment of the keeper of the Forest Adam D'Everingham. 

Understanding their motives is a little harder.

Even harder still is to understand the motives of Robert D'Everingham - son of Adam D'Everingham who within a few years of receiving the keepership of Sherwood Forest from his father, was stripped of his position and himself imprisoned within ten years of this incident...

... for poaching the King's deer!

The entry does at least show us that Forest Law affected people at all levels of society. The fact that people were willing to infringe upon these laws despite the risks, shows us the allure of hunting and poaching to people in medieval Sherwood Forest.

No wonder Robin Hood and his flouting of the Forest Law by living and feasting on the kings deer, was such a popular figure for ballad singers and story tellers around the fireside's of Medieval England.

(more on the keepers of Sherwood Forest, the Women Keepers of Sherwood Forest, deer hunting, poaching, and the courts of the Forest soon).

Tuesday, 20 December 2011

1334 Sherwood Forest Eyre Court

The main court of the Forest Law in the medieval period was the Forest Eyre. 

This was held at irregular intervals by itinerant justices appointed by the King to administer the laws of the Forest.

The records for two of Sherwood Forests Eyre Courts survive in full. These are for 1287 and 1334. 

There were two jurisdictions for the justices in Eyre for the country- one for south of the River Trent known as 'this side Trent' and one for the north known as 'Yon side Trent'.

The Forest Eyre for Sherwood Forest was therefore administered by 'the Kings Justices in Eyre Yon side Trent'.

In 1334 The Pleas of the Forest of Sherwood were heard by Ralph De Neville, Richard of Aldborough, and Peter of Middleton, at Nottingham on 'the Monday next after the Feast of St George in the Eighth Year of the reign of King Edward, the Third after the Conquest'. 

The court opened with the usual ceremony:

Edwardus dei gracia rex angl' dominus Hibern' et dux Aquit' (Edward by the grace of God King of England, Lord of Ireland, and Duke of Aquitane)... archiepiscopis, episcopis, abbatibus, prioribus, comitibus, baronibus, militibus, forestariis, viridariis, agistatoribus, regardatoribus et omnibus aliis de comitatu Nottingham salutem (archbishops, bishops, abbots, priors, earls, barons, knights, foresters, verderers, agisters, regarders and all others of the county of Nottingham, greetings)...

 (for information on verderers agisters etc see Forest Law page)

Following this royal and court protocol the Justices of Eyre are presented, and confirmation is made that the following is an exact record of the occurrences of the court. 

The first trial before the court is of Hugh of Wotehale, William Hyend , Wilcock and Stephen Fleming of Nottingham who took a Hart in the Forest.

This is recorded in the Forest Law Outlaws entry on this blog.

The next entry recalls an inquiry made in 1288 by Edward I under his then Chief Forester William de Vescy.

This inquiry was into the previous rights of the then deceased Robert D'Everingham when he was formerly Keeper of Sherwood Forest.

Robert D'Everingham was stripped of his rights and position of keeper of the forest and imprisoned in Nottingham Castle at the 1287 Forest Eyre following indiscretions in the Forest. 

He was dead within a year - so probably died in custody.

His family had been keepers of the forest back through marriage for hundreds of years. 

The Eyre lists all his rights as keeper of the forest including the right to hunt cat and squirrel in the forest (these will be discussed soon in an entry on the Keepers of Sherwood Forest- see Forest Law page for the structure of the Forest Administration)

This inquiry was to see what rights he had had that could now be bestowed by the king on the next keeper of the Forest- no long a hereditary right.

Besides these two entries regarding outlaws and crimes of hunting, the Forest Eyre is from then on a list of all the misdemeanours in Sherwood Forest since the last Eyre. The people listed below had all committed 'trespass against the vert' at a value greater than 6d.

Values lower than this were the responsibility of the smaller 'attachment courts' (see Forest Law page)

The following pleas were heard before the court:

Ralph son of Reynold of Edwinstowe for 1 oak 10d. His ‘plegii’ (pledges) were Richard of Normanton and Richard Godard of Thoresby. ‘Pro transgressione in misericordia nunc in itinere’ (for the trespass, he is now at the mercy of the Eyre).

Ricarco filio Ricardi de Hibern’ (Richard son of Richard of Ireland) of Mansfield for ‘una querca’ (1 oak) at 12d.

Reynold the son of Geoffrey of Thoresby ‘una stobe’ (1 stub) at 8d.

Nicholas Bateman of Boteby (Budby) ‘pro una blestrone’ (1 sapling) at 6d.

Radulfo Molendinario (Ralph the miller) of Sutton (in Ashfield) ‘pro trescentum lattarum’ (for 300 laths (thin strips of wood - presumably for walling)) a 12d
Iohanne super moram de Warsepe (John of the moor of Warsop) ‘pro una carectata maeremie’ (a Cartload of Timber) at 6d.

Waltero le Norreys of Blidworth  ‘pro truncacione unius quercus’ (for cutting the trunk of 1 oak) 6d.

Hugone ad Pontem (Hugh of the Bridge) of the same town ‘pro stoches’ (for stocks) of the price of 8d.

Ricardo filio Galfridi filii Iuonis (Richard son of Geoffrey the son of Ives) of the same town ‘pro cheueronibus’ for chevrons of the price of 10d.

Nicholas Payne of Warsop for ‘uno ramo’(one branch) at the price of 6d.

Iohanne filio Willelmi de Thoure (John the son of William of Thoure) for a ‘quercu viride’ ( green oak) of the price of 18d.

Gilbert Fadir and Gilbert Gilling ‘pro melle asportato de bosco’ for honey carried away from the wood, of the price of sixpence

Thomas Sheth of Mansfield for a ‘domo vendita’ (house sold).

After listing these men and their crimes ( some of them fairly petty eg. Nicholas Payne; one branch) the Erye Court then goes on to extract fines from the Verderers of the Attachment Court (see Forest Law Page) for failing to produce the rolls for their courts at Lindby, Bulwell, Calverton, Mansfield and Edwinstowe, for the years 1287 to 1289.

Does this suggest a level of corruption amongst these court officials- taking the money and evidence from the smaller courts of the forest and failing to declare them?

The Forest Eyre then, dealt with the crimes against the Venison, and by important men of the region such as Robert D’Everingham former Keeper of Sherwood Forest. It also kept the smaller courts and their officials in check.

It also seems to have dealt with the larger transgressions (more than 6d) against the Vert.

The court rolls show us the names of those involved and the places they have come from, and it certainly seems that many of the crimes described are committed by people trying to make a living in the forest- not by hardened criminals as might be expected.

These people are ordinary folk taking small amounts of timber, branches and sometimes even honey from the woods of Sherwood.

It is little wonder given this evidence that Forest Law was unpopular with the people of Medieval Sherwood Forest

Tuesday, 13 December 2011

Nottingham Castle Park

Nottingham Castle Park was the oldest of the Royal Deer Parks of Sherwood Forest.

It was built to provide the King and his retinue with a supply of deer and the sport of hunting on the doorstep of Nottingham Castle.

The Medieval park outline is still preserved on the landscape today in the large circular steep-sided bowl of ground it occupied to the west of Nottingham Castle. The town archey butts overlooked the park to the north (see Archery in the Forest entry) and the castle itself perched on its sandstone rock to the east.

The area it covered survives roughly as the 'Park Estate' built in the late 19th century by local architect T.C.Hine for the Duke of Newcastle to house the wealthy and well-to-do rich of the rapidly industrialising Nottingham.

The medieval park was surrounded by a 3 metre high fence or 'park pale' to prevent the deer within it from escaping.

As well as for housing deer the Medieval Park was designed both to be a place of beautiful solitude - surrounded by sandstone cliffs and containing wood pasture and coppices; and as a supplier of produce.

William Peverel custodian and builder of Nottingham Castle was given 10 acres of land by the King, to make an orchard. This is recorded in the Domesday Book of 1086 (Morris 1977).

The 1400's Belvoir Map (see the oldest map of Medieval Sherwood Forest entry) lists a 'Castel Apulton' (an apple orchard for the Castle) (Barley 1986). 

This most probably refers to the orchard set up by William Peverel, and was presumably a feature within the park .

As well as an orchard there was a rabbit warren, probably in the form of a 'Pillow Mound' (a mound of earth built over an artificial warren) constructed before 1244 when a stock of rabbits were brought into the park (Drage 1999).

Fish for the castle were provided from the fish ponds in the park. The water from the pond probably came from the River Leen.

Picture: A Pillow Mound Rabbit Warren from the Luttrell Psalter.

Deer and hunting was of course the main raison d'etre for the park. The presence of a large deer herd attached to the castle allowed the king to provide gifts and payments to loyal subjects. Many deer were sent to important dignitaries throughout the medieval period (more on gift of venison from the park soon, see Hunting v Finance entry for more on the use of gifts for payment of service).
The park was entered from a gateway in the western wall of the castle bailey (Foulds 2004) which may have reduced the defensive capabilities of the castle, but improved access to the park.

It was previously thought the front gate of the castle was used on the eastern side with hunting parties having to ride around the castle walls and negotiate the ponds, leats and five water mills located along the southern side of the castle if they tried to approach that way (not very satisfactory).

The Castle Park was a crown possession throughout the medieval period although the 1609 Crown Survey Map of Sherwood Forest by Richard Bankes shows that a small part of it was in the possession of Lenton (Mastoris and Groves 1997) (see 1609 Crown Survey and Map entry).

Lenton Prioiry owned a small cell or hermitage of caves in the sandstone supported by a number of monks known as 'St Mary de la Roche' (St. Mary of the Rock) which was just on the southern edge of the park (the caves behind MFI store on Castle Boulevard) seperated by the diverted River Leen (see the Waterways of Sherwood Forest entry) from the town Meadows to the south. 

'In 1225 Henry III issued a mandate to the Sheriffs of Nottingham and Derby to let two monks of Lenton celebrating divine services daily for the souls of the King's ancestors ''at a rock without the castle of Nottingham'' have 4d a day from the issues of the two counties for their maintenance, as they had been used to receive from previous sheriffs (Calendar of Patent Rolls, Henry III, Vol 1247-58)' (Green 1936).

This Hermitage is listed on the Belvoir Map as 'Ye Roche' (Barley 1986), and is mistakenly shown as 'Druidic Remains' by George Sanderson in his 1835 Map of 20 Miles Around Mansfield (more to come on the chapel of St Mary of the Rock soon).

So as well as being a home to deer for the King to hunt, a royal retreat, an orchard, rabbit warren and supplier of fish, the Royal Nottingham Park was also home to a small Hermitage of Monks living in a system of caves and praying for the souls of the medieval Kings of England. 

It is clear then that Medieval Deer Parks were certainly for more than just hunting, and were significant places in the medeival forest landscape.

(More to come on the other Royal Deer Parks of Sherwood Forest, more on Nottingham Park, the Hunt, Rabbit Warrens, fisheries and stew ponds, and the Monks of Lenton Priory soon).


Wednesday, 7 December 2011

the Rufford Charters: landscape, people, trades and lives in medieval Sherwood Forest

The Cistercian Abbey of Rufford, Nottinghamshire was founded by the Norman Landholder Gilbert de Gant in 1146.

At Christmas in that year King Stephen confirmed Gilbert's grant of the lands from his estate at Rufford to the monks of Rievaulx (Holdsworth 1972). 

Rufford Abbey is located on the east side of Sherwood Forest, in the 'High Forest'. It was founded near to the King's Highway to York, and would have been a familiar and welcome stop for travellers through the Forest.

The abbey was secluded; being surrounded by the open heaths and woodland of the High Forest (more coming soon on the history of Rufford Abbey lands, Abbots and Monks)..

Picture: The undercroft at Rufford Abbey, Nottinghamshire.

The Cistercian movement of the late 12th century saw a massive re-injection of interest in monasticism, and the Cistercian order spread rapidly; receiving grants of land and money from noblemen and noblewomen wishing to buy into the new order and its promises of redemption and salvation.

The Cistercians desired a life of seclusion- which often meant the removal of the indigenous population to create a remote site.

In Sherwood Forest remoteness was available, but even here the foundation resulted in the removal of the villages of Rufford, Inkersall, Crately and Grimston- with some of the people being relocated; supposedly to the village of Wellow.

The history of the lands received by Rufford Abbey from it's foundation through the middle ages is recorded in the 'Rufford Charters'. (Published by the Thoroton Society as: Holdsworth, C.J. 1972. Rufford Charters. Thoroton Society Record Series Vol. XXIX).

The charter lists the large endowments granted by De Gant in Rufford and in nearby villages.

It also discusses at length the rights of the Abbot of Rufford in relation to the forest law (more soon).

As well as these affairs of state and actions of the great and wealthy, the Charters also show how local people donated small pieces of property to the Abbey through the 12th- 15th centuries.

Some of the records of these actions are in 'quitclaims' legal documents literally stating the quitting of any claims of ownership in order to pass the lands to the Abbey.

These 'quitclaims' not only show us how even the relatively less well off also wished to buy their way into heaven (imitating those above them), but it also gives us another glimpse into the landscape of the forest, its people, their trades and lives.

As well as quitclaims of land to the abbey, there are grants of land to rent from the abbey to people of the town.

This post will look at some of these documents relating to Nottingham and will show what we can learn about Medieval Nottingham and Sherwood Forest from examining them.

All names and entries are taken from Holdsworth 1972 and then interpreted below. Over time individual and related quitcalims will be examined through separate blog entries, but for now the following will give a flavour of the sources available:

Nottingham was divided in Medieval times into French and English Boroughs (see Medieval Nottingham entry for more details). These are listed as 'Burgo Franco' and 'Burgo Anglico' in a grant of a messuage in either borough by the Abbot of Rufford of 1236-48.

A lovely element of this grant is that part of the payment for one the messuages in question is with a pound of Cumin.

Spices were often used for payment in medieval times with 'peppercorn rent' being a literal form of payment (more coming soon).

The landscape of the town is also shown- with the street layout being mentioned on occasion:

Stoney Street (the original Saxon highstreet of Nottingham) and still in existence today is mentioned frequently in the Charters as 'Stanstrete' in 1220, 'Stanestrete' in 1230 and again as 'Stonstret' in 1245-58.

Chapel Bar (the gate by the chapel) is listed in 1230 through the name Bartholomew de Barregate (Bartholomew of the street by the gate), and as Chapelbarre in 1285-1317.

The Market Square is also mentioned in this last entry as 'forum Sabati' (the Saturday market).

These streets and features of the Nottingham landscape all still exist today and were all in place by at least the 13th century, they are shown below on John Speeds 1610 map of Nottingham for reference.

Picture: John Speeds Map of 1610 showing Chapel Bar, Market Square and Stoney Street.
A quitcalim from 1180 lists the highway from St. Mary's to the castle 'viam regiam que ducit ab ecclesia sancte Marie ad castellum'. Modern day High Pavement- also shown on Speed's map above.

A 'Snapedale' is mentioned as Snapedal' and is said in 1230-39 to be in the field of Nottingham 'Nuapdale in campo Nottingh'. Snapedale may mean 'boggy dale' from the etymology given for 'Snape wood' in Bulwell (EPSN 1940).

As well as the landscape we are introduced to the people and their trades. The entries list amongst others:


1180 Hormus the baker (more to come soon)

a late 12th century Fulk the Smith (blacksmith)

1222-23 Willelmo le Tanur (more on Tanners and tanning in medieval Sherwood Forest soon)

1230-39, Ranulfo le Tailur (the Tailor)

1234-58  Henrici le Taylur (Henry the Tailor) and a strangely named Benedictus Puffe (not a trader) 

1236 Gilbert le Spicer (perhaps the purveyor of the pound of Cumin!!)
from the mid 13th century a Thurkel le Marchuant (the merchant), Augustino le Clerico (Augustine the Clerk) and a Henrico le Talur (Henry the Tailor).

1285-1317, a William the Gaoler - Nottingham town gaoler!

1412 William Sotyll, a Chaplain and a John Maysham, Butcher.

... to name but a few.

The names also occasionally show a mixture of old English and French. 

With a Swain son of Thorald from 1299-1300- showing the conquest did not entirely crush English identity at the lower levels of society!

An earlier 'Henry son of Eyuolf' from a quitcalim of 1220-30 may reflect how interchangeable English and French names were through the generations at this level of society.

The town was farily cosmopolitan with a Willelmi de Ypres (perhaps a wool trader from Belgium) listed in 1239, and a Heliam le Aleman (sadly not a purveyor of ales, but perhaps more interestingly a German- from the French Allemande) from 1230-40.

Interestingly also mentioned is an 'Andrew Luterel' in 1222-30. The Luterel family and their links to Nottinghamshire through their famous work the Luterel Psalter will be discussed soon.

As can be seen the Rufford Charters offer a fantastic insight into the people and landscape of Nottingham in Medieval Serwood Forest and if interpreted correctly the lives and works of the these people, and the landscape of the day can be pieced together from between the lines of the documents.

(more from the Rufford charters, plus more from the inquititiones post mortem for Nottinghamshire coming soon see a Robbery in the Forest 1335)

Names and trades all taken from Holdsworth, C.J. 1972. Rufford Charters. Thoroton Record Series Vol. XXIX.

Monday, 5 December 2011

the Saxons of Sherwood Forest

The oldest documented mention of 'Sherwood Forest' comes from a charter dating from 958AD granting Scrooby and Sutton cum Lound in north Nottinghamshire from the Crown to the Archbishop of York.

This charter lists a 'Scirwuda' (Shire Wood) as a boundary mark of the land granted to the Archbishop.

This reference is often used to suggest that there was a common wood of the shire in the 10th century in Nottinghamshire that belonged to the people and was shared by them.

The story then goes that the evil Normans came along and took the shared forest away, for the exclusive use of the king.

As nice as this idea is, there is no clear reference to a forest, or any such shared wood of the shire in Nottinghamshire before the conquest of 1066.

Plus it is not possible to tie the 10th century Scirwuda in the north of the county, with the Royal Hunting Forest that bore the name Sherwood from the late 12th century onwards.

The northern boundaries of Sherwood Forest lay 10 miles south of the location of the wood called Scirwuda.

So although we cannot directly date Sherwood Forest back to pre-conquest times it is possible to learn something of the people of the Sherwood Forest area at the time of the Norman Conquest and before.

One possibility is that the Forest boundary recorded in the 13th century was a reflection of the original forest boundary (see Castles and Sherwood Forest entry for more details).

It is likely that the forest was created in the years following the Norman conquest, around 1066.

So who were the people who lived in the area that was- or was to become Sherwood Forest, in the years around the Norman conquest?

Sadly we cannot know the names of the simple farmers and workers of the land- but the names of some of the landowners from the time of the conquest are recorded in the Domesday book for Nottinghamshire.

They are the names of the local ruling elite who would suffer by losing their lands in the change of power that came with the Norman Conquest.

Most of the landowners listed lost their posessions to the incoming Normans by the time that Domesday Book was written in 1086.

The following is a list of the towns and villages of the Forest, and the names of the original 'Saxon' landowners where they get a mention:

Nottingham: Earl Tosti (brother of Harold Godwinson who was King of England until the Battle of Hastings) owned land and buildings in the town. 

Hugh son of Baldric was its sheriff.

In 1066 King Edward the Confessor held Manors and jurisdiction over land including: Mansfield, Arnold, Sneinton, Warsop, Budby and Edwinstowe,

The other listed landlords are as follows:

Annesley: Leofnoth,

Basford: Alwin, Aswulf, Alfeah, Aelfric and Algot,

Blidworth: the Archbishop of York (Ealdred),

Bulcote: Young Swein,

Bulwell: Aelmer and Godric,

Burton Joyce: Swein,

Calverton: Aelfric,

Caythorpe (Alwoldestorp): Athelstan,

Clipstone: Osbern and Wulfsi,

Clumber: Aethwold and Ulfkell,

Colwick: Godric, Aelfric and Bugg,

Gedling: Toki and Dunstan,

Gunthorpe: Morcar, 

Lambley: Ulfketel,

Lenton: Wulfnoth,

Ollerton: Alfwold and Wada,

Pappplewick: Aelfric, Alfsi and Alric,

Perlethorpe: Thurstan and Wulfmer,

Radford: Aelfric, 

Rufford: Ulf,

Stoke Bardolph: Toki,

Warsop: Godric, Leofgeat and Ulfkell,

Woodborough: Ulfkell, Aelfric, Wulfgeat, Wulfric and Alfsi,

(Ref: all names compiled from Morris 1977)

These names sound ancient and archaic (but also poetic and beautiful) to us now.

That is compounded by the fact that the names that replaced them at the Norman Conquest are so much more familliar to us.

Henry, John, Richard, William, Stephen, were all names of the Norman and Angevin kings who ruled between them from 1066 to 1272. 

All these names were French.

Edward I, crowned in 1272 was the first English King since 1066 to carry an English name.

In Nottinghamshire these name would be replaced powerful Norman landowners including a Roger or two, an Alan, a William, a Walter, three Ralphs, and a handful of Gilberts, to name a but a few...

Although we can't know the characters or the actions of these English rulers- dispossed by the conquest, their names and the names that replaced them do indicate the dramatic cultural shift that took place with the Norman Conquest- at the level of the local ruling class as well as at the top of society.

This change of authority and culture had a great impact on English Society as a whole.

Locally it would bring with it the Laws of the Forest that would have a huge impact on the landscape and the people of this area. 

The area that would become Medieval Sherwood Forest.

(More on the Normans of Sherwood Forest, and more on the earlier Saxons of Sherwood Forest (the names behind the place names), coming soon).

Friday, 2 December 2011

Waterways of the Forest

Sherwood Forest is crossed by many rivers, some larger than others.

In the Northern 'High Forest' the rather diminutive collection of rivers draining the Sherwood Sandstones: Rainworth Water, The River Maun, the River Meden and the Poulter; cross the Sherwood Sandstones flowing into one another to form the Idle River in the Hatfield Disctrict to the north of the 13th century Forest boundary on their way to join the River Trent.

The River Leen provides the southwestern boundary of the forest.

Rising in the 'Robin Hood Hills' near kirkby-in-Ashfield the stream winds its way through the monastic lands of Newstead Priory, south through Papplewick, along the western boundary of Bestwood Park to Bulwell.

From there it descends through Radford to Lenton and then into the River Trent near Wilford.

On the southeast side of the forest the Doverbeck river creates the boundary. Rising at Blidworth Fishpool (see the Fishpool Hoard entry for more details), it flows southeast crossing the Kings Road to York. It then flows on past Epperston to enter the Trent near Gunthopre and Caythorpe.

Some of these rivers had a number of natural sinuous courses (see the oulde course of the Trente at Shelforde entry).

As well as these natural water courses were a number of man-made or at least altered rivers within the forest.

The River Leen formed the southwestern boundary of Medieval Sherwood Forest. Here the boundary followed the natural course of the river into the Trent.

The river was also diverted to flow eastwards at Lenton. It then passed the base of castle rock to provide water and transport access to the castle via a series of quays and wharfs.

The diverted river then flowed east under the 'Leen Bridge' which carried the road to London from Nottingham across the town meadows to Hethbeth Bridge (later Trent Bridge) to the south.

It is believed that the river was diverted during the construction of the castle following the Norman Conquest of 1066.

The most likely candidate for this is William Peverel who was the constructor of Nottingham Castle starting in 1067 (see the Honour of Peverel entry for more details).

The diversion of the River Leen provided a looped meander in which Lenton Priory was founded also by William Peverel.

In Domesday Book of 1086, this diversion of the River Leen is referred to as the 'Dyke', and along with the river Trent and the road to York, it is heavily protected:

'In Nottingham the river Trent and the Dyke and the Road to York are so protected that if anyone hinders the passage of ships, or if anyone makes a dyke within 2 perches of the King's road, he has to pay a fine of £8' (Morris 1977).

Domesday Book also mentions another Dyke in Nottinghamshire, known as Bycarr's Dyke. 

It is presumed that the 'By' element of the name is a personal one, with the 'carr' element refering to the grassy, sedgy, boggy landscape which it occupied. 

These boggy lands of the 'Idle marshes' stretched across the northern part of the Idle valley that covered a large part of north Nottinghamshire. 

Bycarr's Dyke predates the Norman Conquest, and could be similar in age to the nearby Roman 'Fosse Dyke' in Lincolnshire, which links the Cathederal City of Lincoln to the Trent at Torksey. 

Bycarr's Dyke connected the River Idle at Bawtry, to the River Trent at West Stockwith. This allowed Bawtry just over the Yorkshire border to develop into a prosperous Medieval port town.

A rather strange thought today as the town sits well in land.

Bycarr's Dyke formed the northern part of the county boundary, and although it is  many miles north of the 13th century boundary of Sherwood Forest, it did form the boundary of the Forest in the 12th century, where it is mentioned as a boundary marker of the forest in an inquest of 1155/6 (see Oldest Known Boundary entry for more details).

Bycarr's Dyke is mentioned in Domesday Book as 'Bigredic':

'In Saundby a villager holds 1 garden; he pays salt, in Bigredic (Bycarr's Dike), for the King's fish'. 

This is one of the rare times that Domesday book gives us a glimpse into the everyday people of Nottinghamshire. It is not very often a lowly individual is mentioned- another is the blind map of Warsop (see Outlaws and Nottinghamshire Domesday Customs entry for more details).

It seems then that water management and canalisation of rivers formed an important part of the Medieval Landscape, for transport and trade, connecting towns, castles and rivers.

Water power was important for use in industry and agriculture across Medieval Sherwood Forest in the form of mills and in meadow systems, and it was an important part of the everyday life of the people of Sherwood Forest.

(More about industry and farming in Medieval Sherwood Forest, and the importantce of trade along the River Trent coming soon).

Thursday, 1 December 2011

the King's Royal Manor of Mansfield

Mansfield is situated in the western central area of Nottinghamshire.

In the medieval period it dominated the area as the largest and most important royal manor in the county.

At Domesday 1086, Mansifeld was a crown Manor with two adjoining outliers (berewicks) of Skebgy and Sutton in Ashfield.

'In Mansfield and the outliers Skegby and Sutton King Edward had 3 carucates and 6 bovates of land taxable. Land for 9 ploughs. The King has 2 ploughs in lordship. 5 Freemen with 3 bovates of this land; 35 villagers and 20 smallholders with 191/2 ploughs. 1 mill and 1 fishery, 21s; meadow, 24 acres; woodland pasture 2 leagues long and 2 wide; 2 churches and 2 priests'.
(Morris 1977)

This was a very large manor indeed.

It held possessions in other manors across the county (sokeland), these were at:

Warsop, Clowne, Carburton, Clumber, Budby, Thoresby, Scofton, Perelthorpe, Rayton, Besthorpe, Carlton on Trent, Kirton, Willoughby, Ompton, Carlton in Lindrick, Tiln, Littleborough, Sturton Le Steeple, Wheatley, Ranby, Walkeringham, Leverton, Fenton, Misterton, Wiseton, Clayworth, Clarborough, Welham, Simetone, Gringley and Saundby...

...and aslo held Berewicks at Edwinstowe and Grimston.

It is the belief of Mike Bishop (former county archaeologist for Nottinghamshire) that the manor once held jurisdiction over the other royal manors of Dunham and Bothamsall, and even once included the lands granted to Archbishop Oskytell in 956 at Southwell and Scrooby in 958 (Bishop 1981).
(more on the lands of the Archbishop of York at Southwell and Scrooby soon).

There are no confirmed royal visits to Mansfield that come directly from the medieval records, but it seems that Henry I may have stayed twice in his reign (1100-1135) (Crook 1984).

From the time of his grandson Henry II (1154-1189) onwards the focus of royal attention was at nearby Clipstone where the King's houses and the deer park offered more convivial surroundings (see King John's Palace entry for more details).

Despite this lack of royal patronage through visiting the manor- Mansfield remained important to the crown due to the income it generated.

During the 13th century it normally contributed £36. 7s. 6d annually towards the farm of the county paid to the exchequer by the Sheriff (Crook 1984). When the king levied tallage on his demense lands (taxing the directly owned land farmed directly for the king) and boroughs it paid a substantial amount, sometimes nearly as much as the borough of Nottingham itself (ibid).

The men of Mansfield were considered an important grouping, who often petitioned the king directly to maintian the rights and privileges they had as a crown manor.

This reflects the importance of the Manor.

This importance may have a wider impact: one possibility (and it is only a theory) is that the 'Shire' or area of jurisdiction of Mansfield may have been the provider of the name 'Sherwood' when relating to the Forest.
This is certainly one possibility as the term 'Sherwood' only came into use after Henry II began investing heavily in the facililties at nearby Clipstone, and Sherwood Forest became an important focus of royal attention for the next few centuries.

Mansfield, its fields, woods and heathland made up a major part of the 'High Forest' region of Sherwood Forest.

The maintenance of royal control over Sherwood Forest especially in the 'high forest' was certainly reliant on the control of Mansfield, and the area it covererd and influenced.

The town of Mansfield itself sat 15 miles due north of Nottingham, and would be approached up the western highway of the forest.

The traveller would pass to the west side of Bestwood park before heading for the Priory at Newstead.

To the north of the priory the landscape that the road passed through was heavily wooded, including woods such as the rather sinister sounding  'Dede Quendale Wode' (Dead Queen's Dale).

The road then crossed (the river) Rainworth Water at 'Gunwey Forth' (ford). 

The traveller would then pass by the large mound of Galow Tre Hyl (the town gallows for Mansfield) looming above them to the east side of the road (see Gallows in the Forest? entry for more details). 

This rather pleasant landmark welcomed the visitor onto crown lands.

The enormous area of woodland combining Mansfield Wood, Sutton Wood, and the crown woodland of Lyndhurst (see Lyndhurst wood - the chief wood of Sherwood Forest entry for more details), then stretched ahead for a few miles.

These vast tracts of woodland must have provided a haunt for many of the malefactors, robbers, and ne'er-do-wells who inhabitted the medieval world.

A part of this woodland that survives, still bares the name 'Thieves Wood'.

The possibility of falling foul of such vagbonds and outlaws must have played heavily on the mind of any traveller in these parts, especially as night approached.

It must have been with some relief that the traveller broke free of the closed canopy of woodland to enter the open fields of 'Berry Field' and 'Southfield' and descended into the hopefully safe haven of the town of Mansfield with its churches, inns and guesthouses.

Mansfield was a bustling market community with the usual people going about their business. Evidence for this comes from the surnames of people in the community with smiths, carpenters, bakers, maltsters, spicer and barkers (leather makers- from the use of the oak bark from the forest in the tanning process (more on leather tanning soon)), along with the millers who ground the corn, malt and grain to be used in baking and brewing (Crook 1985).

The town would be a hive of chaos and activity and energy especially on a market day, and would be a stark contrast to a journey across the wastes and woods of the high forest.

A visitor could take refuge in some of the accomodation available in the town before endulging in some of the local beer, for which Nottinghamshire was rightfully well know.

(More to come soon on the people of Mansfield and their day to day lives and actions, the cave systems and dwellings of the town, its adminsitration and landscape soon)